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"What will they say when they see I’ve abused the Queen?": Eddie Marsan on boxing, bad guys & quitting Twitter

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Andrew Dickens
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We talk to the award winning star of Ray Donovan

You’re back doing your sixth series of Ray Donovan. What’s the appeal of doing an ongoing drama like this?

Regular work! Part of me is still a jobbing actor, so to get a regular gig – especially as I have a family – is a good thing.

Would you ever do a soap opera?

I don’t think I could do it. I have a lot of admiration for the guys who do soap operas, because they don’t have many rehearsals. They come in and they do it at such a pace and so efficiently. I don’t think I’m as technically adept as them.

Your character Terry has Parkinson’s disease. What’s it like portraying something like that?

Every year we get together with the writers to talk about the progression of the disease and the treatment. A couple of seasons back they developed a new treatment called deep-brain stimulation, which stops the shakes but doesn’t stop the disease. So Terry no longer shook, but there are other side-effects to the disease. I talk to Parkinson’s sufferers and boxers to get it as truthful as possible.

Is it important for popular shows to highlight issues like that?

Yes, we found it very important to portray Terry as being a Parkinson’s sufferer who is very stoic, very heroic. Terry may have Parkinson’s, but because he’s an ex-professional fighter, he could still kick your arse.

You’ve worked with Paddy Considine, who has spoken out about his autism. Is the arts a welcoming place for people with mental-health issues?

One of the reasons why I think Paddy is so good as an actor and as a director is because he doesn’t want to please or manipulate the audience. He can only be honest. He’s not tricksy at all. I have to acquire that, because I’m much more shallow.

He directed you in Tyrannosaur, playing an abusive husband. Does that kind of role take a toll on you?

No. One of the golden rules of acting is that ‘nothing human is alien to me’, so you find out the reason why he’s doing it. Olivia Colman was a great help, as she was playing the victim, so she had notes. When I studied them, I realised that these men wanted to be loved. Evil people don’t think they’re evil. That character was more frightening as there was an element of vulnerability to him. It’s more terrifying if you can understand them.

You recently took a break from Twitter. Do you have a love-hate relationship with the platform?

I used to love Twitter. I’m interested in politics and philosophy, and I enjoyed the political debate. But then what happened was the antisemitism issue within far-left factions of the Labour party. Then it wasn’t enjoyable, because all you were doing was arguing against antisemitism. We shouldn’t have to argue against racism! This is not enlightening, this is not fulfilling, this is f*cking stupid.

Why do you think it occurred?

It’s a seductive racism, antisemitism. If you’re racist against black people, it’s obvious and, in a sense, it’s punching down because they’re in a more vulnerable position. But with antisemitism, there’s this idea of a financial elite that’s controlling the world, which becomes George Soros and then Jews – and that’s punching up. Because you say, ‘I want equality’ and the cause of inequality is this conspiracy. You can discuss this without realising that what you’re saying is antisemitic as it’s hidden in the desire for an equal world.

Do you think it’s a particular Labour problem?

It’s unfair to say that it’s a Labour problem. The world is going through an incredible pace of change, which is bringing incredible benefits, but incredible inequality, and no one knows quite how to navigate it. Populism means that simple lies are trumping complicated truths. Complex truths will always fall short of a simple lie.

Have you ever considered a career in politics?

I’m not intelligent enough and I’m too belligerent. Also, I’ve peed all over Olivia Colman [in Tyrannosaur], and she’s the Queen, so I could never be a politician.

Good point – someone would try to pass it off as real.

Yep. If they say I can’t comment on antisemitism now, what will they say when they see I’ve abused the Queen?

Ray Donovan is on Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays at 9pm

(Image: Showtime)

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Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens is freelance writer and Contributing Editor at ShortList, from where he has recently been paroled after serving a 10-year term for crimes against good taste. Twitter: @andrewdickens Instagram: @andrewdickens

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